The easiest and safest solution is to call your insurance company and have the vehicle towed to the nearest dealer of the same brand name as your car. ie Chevy to a Chevy dealer, Ford to a Ford dealer, etc.
1. Don’t try to start the car! If there is water in the engine, attempting to start it could ruin the motor. Then, your problems could get worse!
2. Try to determine how high the water got on your vehicle. If water got up to the dash, there is a 99% chance that the insurance company will “Total” the vehicle (damaged beyond economically-reasonable repair). Mud and debris usually leave a waterline on the car, inside as well as out. If the water didn't rise above bottom of the doors, your car will probably be fine.
3. Call your insurance company. Flood damage is generally covered by comprehensive (fire and theft) insurance, so even if you don't have collision coverage, you may be covered for repairs or replacement. Your insurance company will probably be flooded (sorry) with claims, so it's a good idea to start the process early.
4. Dry the interior. If water got inside the car, mold will grow quickly. Start by opening the doors and windows and putting towels on the floor to soak up water, but you should plan on replacing anything that got wet, including carpets, floor mats, door panels, seat padding and upholstery. Remember, these repairs are likely to be covered by your comprehensive insurance.
5. Check the oil and the air cleaner. If you see droplets of water on the dipstick or the level of the oil is high, or if the air filter has water in it, do not attempt to start the engine. Have it towed to a dealership to have the water cleared and the fluids changed.
(Hard core do-it-yourselfers can try changing the oil then removing the spark plugs and cranking the engine to blow out the water, but we still recommend leaving this to a certified factory trained dealership technician.)
6. Check all the other fluids. Fuel systems on late-model cars are usually sealed, but older cars may need to have their fuel systems drained. Brake, clutch, power steering, transmission and coolant reservoirs should be checked for water and contamination.
7. Check all of the electrical systems. If the engine looks OK to start, check everything electrical: Headlights, turn signals, air conditioning, stereo, power locks, windows and seats, even the interior lights. If you note anything even slightly amiss -- including the way the car runs or the transmission shifts -- that could be a sign of electrical trouble. Take the car to a dealership, and remember that the damage may be covered by insurance.
8. Check around the wheels and tires. Before attempting to move the car, look for debris lodged around the wheels, brakes and underbody. (Set the parking brake before crawling around the wheels!)
9. If in doubt, push to have the insurance company “total” the vehicle. A flood-damaged car can experience problems months or even years after the event. If your car is a borderline case, consider pushing your insurance company to declare the car a total loss.
1. If you find a pre-owned car you like, run all of these websites to check the history. www.vehiclehistory.gov | www.nhtsa.gov | www.carfax.com Keep in mind that if the vehicle repairs were never reported, they will not show up on these sites.
2. Take the vehicle to a reputable mechanic or dealership for a 2nd opinion. Most place will only charge you a small fee for checking out a vehicle for mechanical soundness. It’s usually better to take the vehicle to a like-brand store. ie. Chevy to a Chevy dealership, Ford to a Ford dealership. These places have factory-trained technicians that a far more familiar with the brand than friend of your uncle Fred or the “mechanic around the corner”.
3. If you find a NEW vehicle that you like, go ahead and buy it. All new car dealers are held legally responsible to disclose to the consumer “in writing” any issues or damage a new car has sustained prior to sale. Be sure you read everything you sign (before you sign it) and get a copy of everything before you drive off the lot.